I got 99 problems, but Seven And A Half Things ain't one. Here are the seven and a half things you need to know today:
Thing One: Mighty Mega Mortgage Settlement: At long last we (will soon) have it: A universal settlement between the states, the federal government and five big mortgage-servicing firms over charges they ran America's mortgages through a broken, sloppy mortgage-mangling machine, The Huffington Post's Loren Berlin reports. Getting California and New York on board were key to making the deal happen, and they appear to have signed on. That could be a good sign for the effectiveness of the deal, in which Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial will pay $25 billion. That's a big number, but when you divvy it up between all the states and all the affected homeowners, it's not so much. The banks will hardly blink an eye. The bigger questions, then are whether this will result in more principal reductions for homeowners, particularly by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and whether real, enforceable changes will be made in the banks' way of doing business. Open questions still.
Thing Two: Banks Being Fitted For Mortgage Bond Suits: Even as they appear ready to put the robo-signing mess behind them, Bank of America, Citigroup, Ally Financial and other banks have a new anvil hanging over their heads: The federal government now plans to sue several banks over the toxic bundles of mortgages created ahead of the financial crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports. The suits mark a more-intense phase of investigation into the root causes of the crisis and could "change the way Wall Street operates," according to the story. But these suits are still civil, not criminal, and it's tough to say whether these complicated cases will go anywhere, the WSJ points out.
Thing Three: Jobless Claims On Your Attention: At 8:30 a.m Eastern time, the Labor Department is due to tell us how many people walked to their local unemployment office last week and asked for benefits for the first time. Economists think new jobless claims rose to 370,000 from 367,000 the prior week. That sounds like a big number, but claims have drifted down to their lowest levels since the summer of 2008, a sign of agonizingly slow improvement in the labor market.
Thing Four: Greece: The Re-Debacle-ing: It sounds like the start of a joke, and I guess it sort of is: So the Greek Prime Minister walks into debt talks at 6:00 a.m. Brussels time, after all-night wrangling between the Greek government, Greek political parties, the IMF, the ECB and the European Commission on how to craft a new and pointless loan to his country, and drops some brand-new demands on the negotiators, the Financial Times reports. That has threatened to upend talks just ahead of a meeting of euro-zone finance ministers later today. At some point perhaps Greece and Europe will realize they can just end this charade and spare everybody the pain?
Thing Five: Buffett Pokes the Gold Bugs: Beloved American billionaire candy dispenser Warren Buffett likes the simple things in life: a cold bottle of Coke, some See's chocolates, and dental insurance, hopefully. What he does not care for is gold, and he expounds on this dislike at great length in his latest shareholder letter, of which Fortune has gotten a sneak peek. Gold is only valuable insofar as you can get some other sucker to buy your gold from you at a higher price, he writes, correctly. He favors more productive stuff -- farmland, real estate -- that people will continue to use no matter what sort of currency we use in the future, whether "gold, seashells, shark teeth, or a piece of paper."
Thing Six: Credit Suisse Not So Sweet: The second-biggest Swiss bank reported its first quarterly loss since the financial crisis, hurt by the ongoing euro-zone market meltdown and its efforts to shed risks at its investment bank, Bloomberg reports. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your banking sector in 2012: Not even the giant Swiss banks are immune.
Thing Seven: The Price of Tea In China: Chinese inflation jumped to 4.5% in January, likely bringing to a screeching halt efforts by the government to loosen up the flow of money into its financial system. The spike could well be temporary, affected by higher spending around the Lunar New Year, Reuters writes, but the central bank won't take any chances. The speed of growth in China could have a big impact on growth, and commodity inflation, in the rest of the world
Thing Seven and a Half: Zuckerberg's Accidental Endorsement: In the category of first-world problems, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg got a painful first-hand lesson about some of the annoying bugs of this little Interwebs page called Facebook. Seems he hit the "like" button on a Slate writer's post about Mittens Romney and money and how Romney and money are the same word, except with an "R" added to one of them. Except when Facebook broadcast Zuckerberg's "like," it annoyingly dropped most of the context of the post, leaving only "Romney," making it seem as if Zuckerberg liked only Romney. That led to lots of Interwebs-style thoughtful discussion, such as "u suck Zuckerberg LOL." Maybe now we'll get that bug fixed, Facebook?